After the United States and Mexico reached an agreement to avoid new tariffs on Mexican products, President Trump went to Twitter. Trump said “Mexico has agreed to immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers.” When asked about it at a Senate hearing, representatives of USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office had no details. Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind indicates Congress is also in the dark. “We have gotten zero information about any details of a secret deal with Mexico.” Kind emphasized Mexico is the No. 1 export market for U.S. dairy products and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement needs to be resolved.

Other trade deals may be at risk
    If the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is not ratified soon, trade deals with other countries may be at risk. U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack said there are trading partners concerned the United States may not be able to strike a deal. That was feedback from a recent trip to the European Dairy Association in Scotland. “There is a concern about the use of tariffs to negotiate. Hopefully, at the end of the day we get folks to the table and we reach some kind of consensus to move things forward.” Vilsack said ratifying the USMCA is very important for making progress on other trade agreements like Japan and China. “It’s about saying to the world we are interested in free trade agreements. We are capable of reaching a bipartisan arrangement. It sends a message we want to compete in the world market as long as the competition is fair.” In the meantime, U.S. agriculture groups are going to keep pressing for the USMCA to be ratified.

DMC sign-up is underway
    Enrollment for the new Dairy Margin Coverage program is now open. Farm Service Administrator Richard Fordyce said the program coverage is retroactive to the beginning of the year. Dairy Margin Coverage pays dairy farmers the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost when it falls below a specific dollar amount. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said this program is designed to provide an adequate safety net to dairy farmers. Peterson is encouraging dairy farms to sign up their first 5 million pounds of production history at the $9.50 coverage level. DMC sign-up is open through September 20.

MFP payments to be front-loaded
    House lawmakers want more information on the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments. They asked specific questions of chief ag negotiator Gregg Doud and USDA Undersecretary Ted McKinney during a House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing. Missouri Representative Vicki Hartzler asked McKinney about trade aid and tough planting conditions. McKinney responded. “I think the first tranche of MFP payments will be heavier, because of the immediate need. Beyond that, I’m disallowed by law to get into the specifics.” McKinney also told Hartzler he was not sure when farmers would know the county rates for MFP.

MFP details coming soon
    The details of the new Market Facilitation Program will be released within a matter of days. “I believe people deserve an answer sooner rather than later,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue emphasized the goals of the MFP payments differ from prevented plant coverage. “The Market Facilitation Program is designed for tariff disruptions and we have a safety net in insurance over prevented plant.” The USDA legal team has determined crops must be planted to be eligible for MFP payments. With the new trade assistance plan, farmers will receive payments based on a county rate and their eligible planted acres in 2019. The formula for the county rates has not been announced, but will be based on the trade impact for the crops grown in the county.

Emergency haying sought on PP acres
    A multi-state coalition has submitted a request to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking for the ability to plant and harvest forages on prevented planting acres. The request came from the Farm Bureau groups in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio due to feed and forage shortages. Severe alfalfa winter kill and record rainfall this spring influenced the feed situation. The groups said they are not seeking a permanent change, but a one-time emergency request.

H-2A amendment passes
    An amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill includes year-round farm employees in the H-2A farm worker visa program. National Milk Producers Federation President/CEO Jim Mulhern said most dairy farmers have been unable to use H-2A visas because they can only be used for seasonal or temporary employees. “The current H-2A program simply isn’t an option for a commodity that harvests its product multiple times a day, every day.”

More cows are culled
    With the ongoing struggles in the dairy business, more cows are going to slaughter. In the latest reporting week, more than 53,000 dairy cows were culled nationwide. That’s up 9 percent from last year at this time. Year to date, 1.4 million dairy cows have been culled. That is up nearly 70,000 cows or 5.2 percent from the same period in 2018.

Whole milk in school
    Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey have proposed legislation that would allow school districts to serve flavored and unflavored whole milk and 2 percent milk. During the Obama Administration, restrictions were imposed on school districts and milk consumption has declined significantly.

USDA ag advisory committees named
    The USDA’s new agricultural advisory committee features some familiar names. That list includes National Farmers Union senior vice president Rob Larew and National Milk Producers Federation President/CEO Jim Mulhern.

New FFA officer team elected
    The new Wisconsin FFA president is Collin Weltzien of Arcadia. The other members of the officer team are vice president Ryan Erickson, Barron; vice president Lindsey Augustine, Ellsworth; treasurer Curtis Weltzien, Arcadia; vice president Grace Morrissey, Shullsburg; sentinel Emily Sheehan, Parkview; secretary Jared Mack, Sauk Prairie; vice president Daniel Clark, Spencer; reporter Lydia Williams, Shawano; parliamentarian Joe Schlies, Denmark and vice president Michelle Stangler, Watertown.

Trivia challenge
    June Dairy Month began in 1937. That answers our last trivia question. June Dairy Month actually had a different name when it began. What was it? We’ll have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.
    Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network, based in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wick has been recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year and served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Don and his wife, Kolleen, have two adult sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora and Sterling.